05 June, 2009

Looking at the opening: what in blazes is a hook?

Editors talk endlessly about hooking the reader. It sounds complicated, but everything I've learned about craft is, compared to how it originally sounded, actually much simpler once you understand it. Here's something I learned from a short course with Paul McAuley. Hooking the reader means getting expectations and/or questions running in the reader's mind. That's it. That's how writers talk about hooks.

Think about it: if the reader is wondering about things they are feeling involved in the story. If they have expectations they feel involved in the story. What can you do to help? Let's see...

1) You're not going to build expectation/intrigue unless there's some story element strong and clear in the opening. Usually you see character and setting, but sometimes stories do it differently. Character and setting seem very important, though. I always try to give character and setting and I find that method extremely helpful.

2) An interesting idea will, naturally, build wonder to a greater extent, and thus help build expectation/intrigue. If you're interesting idea is well drawn, there will be narrative elements tied to it, of course. Include those elements, or at least expectation/intrigue for those elements in your opening.

There are other ways, I'm sure, but these are the most important ones I can think of right now. I have to get back to writing.

OK bye.

(The hidden message in all these posts were I rush off is that if you want to be a writer you'd better be busy writing. If you have a job that's fine. Back when I had to work a full-time job I averaged about 2000 words per day. I itched to write constantly while I sat in my squeaky chair in office Hell. I used to sneak off to the bathroom to plot my stories. I convinced one boss I had bowel problems for that purpose. On Saturday, instead of going out, I wrote. I didn't just want to. I had to. If you've stumbled upon this blog and you want to write, let me pose the most important question to you: how badly do you want to write? If you want to make a career of it, the answer had better be that you have to. I don't even know you and I guarantee you can succeed if you have a dream. Talent is great it you have it but it won't make you succeed any more than intelligence will get you good grades at school or big money at the office. Work does that, and it often brings people success even when they lack talent.)

No comments: